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To the People Who Do Not Believe in the Anxiety and Depression They Cannot See

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“It is just a phase. It will pass.”

“Quit moping around and having a pity party.”

“You don’t really want to be happy. You just want to stay miserable and get extra attention.”

To people who do not understand depression,

Let me shed a little light on the matter. I wake up, unfortunately, to face another grueling day of whatever the hell might possibly happen. It will suck either way. I just want to be back in my bed. Wait, I’m still in my bed. I roll out of the bed after beating my iPhone with my alarm clock that is annoying the ever living crap out of me.

“Yes I know! I have to get up and do something with my life! Knock it off!”

“No, you don’t. Why don’t you just slip into your favorite pajamas, pull the blackout curtains to close off the light and bury yourself in your fortress of pillows and blankets. Nobody can get you there. While you’re at it, turn off your phone. You don’t really want to talk to anyone anyway. All it will be is people pestering you about where you are or what you’re doing or if you’re OK. You don’t owe them a damn explanation.”

“You’re right,” I say, as I stare at the ceiling for what must have been almost two hours. I finally give a little effort to roll out of bed and eat some cereal, even though I don’t want it. I know I have to make myself eat. Why though? It isn’t like I want to exists anymore. Wouldn’t the pain go away if I stopped eating and eventually I would just die?

I hear a knock at the door.

“Who is it?” I bark out toward the front door.

“Come on, it’s me! Let’s go out and have some fun!”

Hmph… fun. OK, sure I will go as long as you stop irritating me, I think to myself.

We head to the movies and pull into the parking lot. As soon as we park, my anxiety goes into full blown panic mode.

“Look at all of those people in the parking lot!”

I can’t be around that many people! They are all staring at me! Judging my clothes, my weight, my demeanor.

“Can we not just watch a movie at home?” I ask.

“We’ve wanted to see this forever. Come on! It can’t be that bad.”

We pay for our ticket stubs and walk toward the movie door entrance. All of a sudden, it hits me, panic attack. I rush for the bathroom stall and slam the door behind me and lock the door and plead with myself.

“Not now, please, not now,” I beg with myself. “We just got here, and I haven’t been out of the house in months because of what you did to me last time!”

As if the panic attack gave a damn about my feelings and emotions. No, no, this is a train that just can’t be stopped by begging and pleading. This train stops when it feels like it has reached its destination.

I keep telling myself, “It is OK. This too shall pass. It is only temporary. I am not in any real danger of dying. I am going to survive this. I can not give up!”

After what seems like an eternity, the attack begins to cease. The hurricane swirling in my head begins to lose its power over me. I feel me coming back. I stay in the stall, sobbing, thinking, contemplating…

I leave the stall and head to the mirror in front of me and turn the water on. I splash my face, rub my eyes and forehead and stare into the mirror. I assess the emotional and physical toll this panic attack has taken on me. It was rough, but I made it.

I survived an illness that throws willpower alone out of the window. An illness who can make me think the darkest thoughts I never knew I was capable of thinking. An illness that can take my beautiful day and in an instant, turn it into an anxious nerve-racking, panic stricken day worrying about anything and everything.

Where is this magical “off” button people believe exist, people who believe that depression and anxiety is not an illness? If willpower alone is all I needed to beat this, then why the hell am I in therapy and taking medications to try and make me function the way you do? Is it because you are scared to understand what it is to have major depressive disorder and anxiety? Well, you should be.

I would not wish this on my worst enemy. I never know what my day is going to be like. When I say this, I mean I can start out happy, go into panic attack and then spiral down into a dark depression that takes days to dig myself out of. Do you really grasp what I am telling you? Of course not! You could not possibly understand how I feel because my depression is my depression. So stop belittling my situation and telling me to man up or act like a damn adult.

We need awareness raised for all of us humans who fight like hell every day just to be able to put their head on their pillow at night and manage to get more than four hours of sleep. More people need to take this illness seriously. Just because there is not a blood test or a biopsy to show it or just because you can’t see it, does not mean it is not real.

I wake up every single morning and wish I did not have the illness I have because I know at some point in the day, something is going to happen that will trigger either anxiety or depression. I am not saying I just wake up and refuse to be happy because this illness will take it away. I am just trying to communicate that this will eventually tear us down for a period of time and we have to endure it.

People with mental illness are the strongest people I know. We have to fight through days where it would be easy to end it all, but we keep going! We don’t let the illness defeat us. We grow stronger every day combating this.

I urge everyone who reads this article to name their strongest positive quality. I also urge you to find something, if you don’t already have something, to cling to that keeps you fighting. You protect that with everything you have.

It won’t always be pitch black dark, guys. The light will shine through for us and allow us to see the world from a different perspective than what our depression and anxiety lets us see it through.

Everyone who has a mental illness is worth fighting for. You never know what miracles you could bring this earth by just deciding to fight for one more day. It will get better. Believe me, I know. I have been battling major depressive disorder for six years. I won’t lie and say I don’t have bad days. We all will stumble. The important part is that we pick ourselves back up.

For those of you who doubt that mental illness is real, I hope this sheds at least a little light on the matter. I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of depression or anxiety. I just felt in my heart I needed to write this article for someone who is desperately trying to prove to a naysayer that this is very much real.

I love all of you guys so much and am honored to fight alongside you with this day to day battle. I may not know you personally or by name, but I know I am not the only one fighting this battle. It gives me comfort to know I am not the only one fighting like hell to have my happy life.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: December 21, 2016
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